Objective: To systematically evaluate the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating or preventing allergic rhinitis (AR).
Data sources: We retrieved data from 17 electronic databases, nonelectronic searches of conference proceedings, our own files of articles, and bibliographies of located articles.
Study selection: All randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of acupuncture for AR were considered for inclusion if they included placebo controls or were controlled against a comparator intervention.
Results: One hundred fifteen possibly relevant studies were identified and 12 RCTs met our inclusion criteria. The methodologic quality of the individual trials was variable. Our review includes 7 trials of high quality that met standards of methodologic rigor. All RCTs tested the effectiveness of acupuncture on AR symptoms and none on its curative value. Three RCTs failed to show superiority of acupuncture for treating or preventing symptoms for seasonal AR compared with placebo acupuncture. For perennial AR, 1 study reported favorable effects of acupuncture on a rhinitis symptoms score and 1 found positive results for a nasal symptoms score compared with placebo acupuncture (n = 152; standard mean difference, 0.45; 95% confidence interval, 0.13-0.78; P = .006; heterogeneity: chi2 = 0.45, P = .50, I2 = 0%). Two RCTs compared acupuncture with oral pharmacologic medications. Their results were in favor of acupuncture.
Conclusions: The evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture for the symptomatic treatment or prevention of AR is mixed. The results for seasonal AR failed to show specific effects of acupuncture. For perennial AR, results provide suggestive evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture.